Sunday, November 29, 2009

I made spaghetti risottati

I blush with shame to admit that despite two decades in Italy and being a big food lover, I had never heard about pasta risottata until Friday, when I was informed of its existence by a (gasp!) American. Namely, Mark Bittman in The New York Times. As you may infer from the name, it is pasta cooked as if it were risotto. And I doubt that you should try your hand at this unless you are already proficient with risotto.
Naturally, I was skeptical that this impertinent americano would know something about Italian food that I didn't. So of course I did a Web search of Italian sites only (which you can do by going to and choosing pagine provenienti da: Italia). To my dismay, he was right. There were references to this dish, and recipes. Not a whole lot, but it's there and it's Italian.

So I decided to make my own today for lunch. I had some Trader Joe's frozen bay scallops and De Cecco spaghetti. Bittman said that you can even make spaghetti this way if you break it into pieces. Which just goes to show that he is indeed American. I'll be damned if I'll ever break spaghetti.

An Italian recipe I saw called for parboiling (sbollentare) the spaghetti beforehand for a few minutes. Like I'm going to boil all that water to parboil the spaghetti in order to later make it in the pan.

What I did was to courageously try to make the raw spaghetti in the pan. And it worked. Mind you, the pan was not quite as long as the spaghetti. So the pasta did not initially fit.

I sauteed one clove garlic, chopped parsley, and dry thyme, in several tablespoons of olive oil. In the meantime I had heated water in another pan to add to spaghetti. I threw in a multitude of the still frozen scallops (if thawed, they would have overcooked). I added the raw spaghetti to the mixture, and added some water (did not cover with water). After a few minutes the uncut spaghetti miraculously fit in the pan, whereupon I continued to add water and some white wine. I seasoned with salt and freshly-milled pepper. I continued to stir until done.

The results, as others have noted, are that the pasta is creamier and thicker. It was good but not really better than regular pasta. Of course I have made regular pasta a hundred thousand times, and pasta risottata once. But its rarity in Italy shows that this must be a common reaction. Would I make it again? I might, with some short pasta such as gemelli, and just to make one portion.

But it was fun to try.